COVID-19 mutations forcing change in treatments

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — On April 16, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) revoked Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Bamlanivimab, one of the most common treatments for COVID-19.

Bamlanivimab is a monoclonal antibody that binds with cell receptors and stops COVID-19 from spreading. It is used in mild to moderate cases that haven’t required hospitalization yet. It was first granted its EUA in November 2020 and has been used since then.

But why was it’s EUA stripped?

Dr. James Castillo, Cameron County Health Authority, told KVEO variants of the original COVID-19 virus were becoming more common.

“[Bamlanivimab] still works against the classic strain, but because there’s so much variance spreading you need a combination now. Not just one antibody, you need two,” said Castillo.

Dr. Jose Campo Maldonado, an infectious disease doctor at Valley Baptist Medical Center and an instructor at the Univesity of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), said that viruses mutating to develop variants are a tactic to help it survive.

“The virus is under ongoing evolutionary pressures, right? We are trying to prevent transmission, and there are a lot of people who are infected through the world,” explained Maldonado.

One of the evolutions the virus went through resulted in variant B 117, originally discovered in the U.K., which is starting to become more prevalent in the U.S. Because the receptors on the virus are slightly different, Bamlanivimab doesn’t work on it.

“Imagine you’ve got a lock and a key, and the bam is the key, well the lock has changed so it’s not going to work like it should,” explained Castillo.

With the increase of COVID variants causing changes in treatment, the CDC relaxed some mask guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.

Graphic showing new CDC suggestions.

“It doesn’t mean things are being done or not done as safe as possible, but it means there is a commitment for an ongoing review of data on safety and effectiveness,” said Maldonado.

The review has shown that being outdoors without a mask is still relatively safe, even with the variants. For people fully vaccinated, most outdoor activities don’t require a mask.

Masks are still suggested for indoor activities, regardless if the person is vaccinated or not.

“Indoors, in enclosed rooms that are not well ventilated, that seems to be one advantage variants have that’s probably making it more contagious,” said Castillo.

 Doctors are continuing to encourage the public to do what they can to stop spreading the virus.

“If we don’t get vaccinated, we’re giving more chances to the virus to change and mutate,” said Maldonado.

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